1955 First McDonald’s opens in USA

Salesman Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s in Illinois in 1955, licensing the name from a Californian Bar-B-Que restaurant that had been operating since 1940. Kroc promoted the idea of franchising, so store owners were working for themselves. >McDonald’s timeline

The Illinois venture may have been the first McDonald’s as we know it, but the origin of the McDonald’s name harks back to 1940. That’s when the McDonald brothers, Maurice (Mac) and Richard (Dick) opened their first restaurant in a Los Angeles suburb. Originally they had an extensive menu with a focus on slow-cooked barbecue – beef, ham and pork sandwiches. The restaurant provided little seating but, as with other drive-in restaurants, short-skirted carhops served people in their cars.

Eight years later, realising that hamburgers were far and away the most popular item on their menu, they changed everything. They fired the carhops, simplified the menu and introduced their ‘Speedee Service System’ that took a production line approach to the food. The initial menu consisted of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips and a slice of pie. The following year, milkshakes were added to the menu and potato chips were replaced by French fries.

Ray Krok was one of the McDonald brothers’ suppliers, selling milkshake machines. He saw the potential of the approach and bought the rights to franchise their operation. His first McDonald’s opened in 1955 and in 1961 he bought the company. The ‘golden arches’ became part of the chain’s identity in 1962 and the current logo, which turned the arches into an ‘M’ dates from 1968.

The first McDonald’s outside the USA was opened in Richmond, Canada in 1967. The first in Australia opened in Sydney in 1971. McDonald’s restaurants can now be found in more than 100 countries around the globe and more than 90% of the restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent franchisees.

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